The IFA hill farming chair Flor McCarthy has said many farmers will not be able to take part in eco schemes if the Department does not acknowledge the problem of invasive species.

“Invasive species such as rhododendron ponticum impact the quality of the land. For many farmers, their environmental scores would be too poor to participate in any such schemes.

McCarthy said that members of the Government, who he mentioned were at COP26 this week talking about the environment, need to stop talking and start acting.

“We need the Department to recognise just how severe this problem is right across the country.

“The MacGillycuddy Reeks European Innovation Partnership (EIP) has been very successful in Kerry, but it didn’t meet the unprecedented demand,” he said.

McCarthy had 70ac of land infested with rhododendron ponticum. Through the EIP scheme, he was able to get five participants who were specially trained for the project to do work on the removal of the toxic species.

The total cost of the work was €40,000, which he paid, but was then reinbursed through the EIP.

“Many farmers were left disappointed because the scheme could only facilitate 50% of the total amount of applicants that applied in the Killarney area,” he said

McCarthy said that it was not acceptable that a huge proportion of farmers were essentially excluded from the scheme.

“The demand in the MacGillycuddy Reeks area alone is huge, and I have been getting calls from numerous farmers in the area looking to participate in this scheme,” he said.

“This scheme is coming to an end in early 2023, we want something similar and permanent put in place for all farmers to be able to avail of.

“Farmers are constantly being told how various things they are doing are impacting on the environment.

“So, if the Department are serious about the environment, then the removal of rhododendron ponticum must be done to reduce the negative effects,” he insisted

McCarthy was adamant that if the capital funding is not put in place, the environment will suffer major negative effects.